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2015 Toyota May Go Down A Bomb

We hear a lot these days about electric cars and hybrid cars but, coming up on the rails, is the third choice – the hydrogen powered car. On the production front Toyota has indicated that it has cut the cost of the fuel cell system in its next hydrogen-powered car by the equivalent of almost one million dollars. This puts the company on course to launch a mid-sized saloon – which may look something like the experimental vehicle in the image –  in 2015 with a price below £65,000. Whether or not we will see it in the UK remains to be seen as we are way behind on preparing a workable infrastructure for alternative fuels.

The new fuel cell car will first be sold in Japan, the United States and probably Europe, Toyota have said. The news is that the company is set to unveil a concept at the Tokyo auto show in November. This clashes with the Los Angeles Motor Show so maybe it will pop up there too.

The manufacturer says the fuel cell system will cost about 5 million yen (£32,000 approx) compared with prototype costs of more than £650,000. The company’s plans are weighted heavily towards fuel cell cars, which convert hydrogen to electricity, emit only water vapour and have a similar range to conventional cars, as their next-gen alternative fuel vehicle. They have big plans to sell ‘tens of thousands’ fuel cell motors by the 2020’s.

It isn’t widely known but platinum is used in the manufacture of a fuel cell. Toyota have managed to cut the amount needed from an original one hundred grams to as little as thirty grams thus saving even more cash. They believe they can cut it further as the technology is refined. This will bring them in line with the catalytic converters on diesel powered cars which use about twenty grams of the precious metal. Toyota will also use less carbon-fibre in the high-pressure hydrogen tanks and will use cheaper, mass-produced components to cut costs further, they say.

As we are all now well aware, electric cars are range limited and take a long time to refuel. This won’t happen with hydrogen powered vehicles because it takes only minutes to fill the tank and the cars can travel the same sort of distances as cars with combustion engines.

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Highway To High-Tech

Unbeknownst to most of us, our poor benighted road system is soon to become home to Britain’s first high-tech highway. In just a few short weeks we will see our automotive future. What you may think about it is a different matter.

Essentially the deal is this: A fifty mile stretch of the A14 between Birmingham and Suffolk will be fitted with electronic gadgetry which will communicate with modern cars. The system has the potential to monitor traffic, warn of obstructions and perform many other tasks but, and this is more concerning, it could also have the ability to artificially limit a car’s speed. Clearly this won’t happen now as it would result in drivers believing there was something wrong with the motor – but it is possible.

The cars will communicate with the gizmos which will allow them to build up a picture, by way of a central computer, of congestion and the like. Much in the same way that satellite navigation works, the technology could establish the build-up of a traffic jam and calculate alternative routes.

There’s a theme building here. Manufacturers, as we all know very well, are building autonomous cars that can drive themselves. They will leave the driver free to do – what – whilst the car takes care of itself. The thinking is that accidents could become a thing of the past thanks to the science of automotive engineering. We are already seeing crash avoidance technology on cars today. Clearly the intention is for this auto technology to merge with roadside systems with the intention of controlling traffic entirely.

Rather disingenuously, the various bodies involved in this are talking up the benefits of, say, having the machine find a parking space for you whilst remaining rather more tight-lipped about control.

This is the usual route of persuasion. The carrot on the end of a stick. They will say – ‘Look how we can help you’. In fact, for anyone who likes cars and driving it is a clear and present signal that the days of carefree motoring will be over in a matter of decades. Nobody has any objection to making cars safer but it the loss of individuality and the freedom of the road that will suffer. Cars will just be transport; shuttles to get people from A to B. What a dull world that will be.

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‘Start Off-Road’ Scheme For Young Drivers

In a burst of insane thinking that might also be a good idea, those mad impetuous fools at Land Rover have devised the ‘Start Off-Road’ scheme for young would-be drivers between the ages of eleven and seventeen.

What’s more, they’re allow these kids to have the keys to a Range Rover Evoque. Don’t worry though, they will not be allowed on the road. It’s track and field only for them.

Seems like a plan. Anything that instils into young drivers a sense of their our ability and handling skills coupled with a sense of responsibility has got to be a good thing. They will experience true off-road driving, that will teach them skills and techniques that they will go on to utilise throughout their future years both on and off road, helping to develop skills and techniques that they will go on to utilise throughout their future years both on and off road.

Participants have the chance to experience driving techniques including basics such as steering, braking and reversing, as well as more advanced skills such as climbing and descending hills, crossing ditches and ridges, negotiating ruts, wet grass and mud, and even crossing water.

The idea is based on statistical evidence that younger drivers pick up new skills easier and are more open to learning good driving habits. By instilling into them the basics and sound principles of good practice it is hoped that they will gain invaluable experience for later in life.

And then of course there’s the Range Rover Evoque which these kids are going to get to drive whilst the rest of us have our metaphoric noses pressed up against the outside of the window looking in. Each Range Rover Evoque is fitted with dual controls for safety as well as an automatic gearbox, and a dedicated team of instructors are on hand to take participants through every scenario. Parents can also take part in the activity. Expect many to sign up for the schemes in and around the Midlands and South.

In preparing would-be young drivers in this way, not only does it, as mentioned, add skills but it also gives instructors the chance to develop good practice. Overall, this is excellent news from Land Rover and is to be welcomed.

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Autonomous Cars On The Road By 2020

There exists a document that most people have not heard of. It is called the Vienna Convention of Road Traffic. This is the Euro-bible that basically governs what goes into Highways Codes around the Community. You would have to be really desperate for literature to read it. Somewhere around the time that you read this, new legislation will be tabled to make amendments to this earnest document.

It will allow self-driving systems to take control of a vehicle. Obviously a human has to be present to take charge if necessary but the amendment will effectively give the green light to self-driving cars.

A future world of autonomous cars has been on the cards for some years now. Various companies have been working with vehicles laden with the latest technical wizardry to bring them to us – whether we want them or not. The same manufacturers who bring us high powered sports cars are also getting in on the act but it is hard to see that a mix of self-driving and human driven cars will be compatible.

To some extent this technology is with us now. Our cars have cruise control and lane management and the like, all designed to relieve the driver of at least some of the onerous tasks of driving. These advances have certainly made cars safer and that is the view behind driverless cars. If machines can keep vehicles apart then accidents should be a thing of the past. That would be great in an ideal world.

Sadly though, we don’t live in such a Utopia. In the same way that people make mistakes then so can technology. What happens when an electrical component fails in a driverless car? It is all very well to say that the human will instantly take over but can we rely on that when push comes to shove? Eventually, people will get used to not touching the controls with the inevitable lack of concentration.

This is what presents the problem. If self-driving cars do collide or knock someone down to whom is fault assigned? If one vehicle is deemed to be responsible how can the owner be found guilty if he, like everyone else, is reliant on the car’s technology? This should cause some insurance headaches.

Nevertheless the quest for the driverless car continues apace. A couple of car makers have said that they will be bringing autonomous cars to market by 2020. Google have said that they are developing their driverless cars to become robo-taxis. All very ’Blade Runner’. The pleasures of motoring are being eroded. Soon they will be no more.

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A Dearth Of Diesel

With the admittedly slow but inevitable rise of the electric car and the growing confidence in hydrogen technology it seems a bit strange that drivers would be worried about the supply of diesel in the long term. Bizarre though it may seem, there is some truth in the fact that the supply of diesel could possibly – if remotely – be put in jeopardy by events yet to come.

This is why. Ships. That’s right, just when you thought you were safe on dry land it appears the shipping industry is going to have to meet burgeoning new EU regulations concerning emissions; so it’s not just we motorists who suffer. Their vessels will have to be cleaner in future which means they will no longer be able to burn heavy fuel oil but instead use a form of diesel similar to that which is used in cars.

It gets worse. The economies of India and China are growing apace. The demand for new cars is massive and, as a result, there will increasingly be an upsurge in the use of diesel. The answer should be to make more of it but apparently it isn’t that easy. It seems that when a company builds a refinery they have to decide from the outset what it will produce. When most European refineries were built more than thirty years ago the demand was for good old petrol which easily outsold the murky diesel product of the time.

Then diesel engines became cleaner and more economic. Thus demand rose and in 2006 diesel outsold petrol for the first time and it was then that we all discovered we did not have the capacity to make enough of the stuff. The result is that Europe exports petrol but has to import forty percent of the diesel we need. Most of this comes from Russia, a nation with whom we have a sometimes shaky relationship. Is it any wonder that diesel users are worried.

An interesting side issue of this has come to light. Users of diesel cars castigate government for the additional tax that their chosen fuel carries and believe not unreasonably that there should be price parity. It seems that the government doesn’t want to lower the tax because they believe it would create extra demand and put even more pressure on our diesel stocks. We hate to admit it but they may have a point.

This may be why car makers are building these super-small, super-economical petrol engines and hybrids. This seems to be a trend. Although diesel remains popular with higher mileage drivers because of the economy factor it is likely that petrol engines will soon once again be in the ascendancy. In the meantime it is unlikely we will ever see diesel prices at the pumps come down.

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Concept Cars – Has The World Gone Mad?

Soon, very soon now, the motor show season will kick start the Autumn and Winter months, bringing some light into our damp darkness. One feature that is sure to be of interest this year is just how mad some of the concept cars will be.

Concepts – often the result of years of research – are a way of introducing styling changes and possible future developments to the waiting world. In reality, the final production models will not look much like them at all.

Car designers are allowed free rein to come up with new ideas and the copywriters will have sharpened their quills to ensure that the greatest amount of florid hyperbole can be written into the smallest spaces on the page. Vehicles that are futuristic, wacky and just plain bananas are usually the result. The Citroen Cactus (pictured) is a case in point. This concept has ‘air bumps’ on the side to help minimise damage in the event of a minor shunt.

CAC21 Concept Cars   Has The World Gone Mad?It is crucial that all concept cars are given daft names. Presumably there is a point to it but who knows what it is? When Citroen were questioned about calling a car Cactus they got a bit prickly about it. (Only kidding! Citroen people are very nice!). Also, in today’s environmentally friendly world, the cars have to be clean and efficient. The aforementioned Cactus has an Hybrid-Air system. This is an innovative combination of tried and tested technologies: a petrol engine, a unit to store energy in the form of compressed air, a hydraulic motor-pump assembly and an automatic transmission working with an epicyclic gear train. Well done if you understand that but this technology could well be featuring in the brand’s vehicles from 2016.

If manufacturers are prepared to spend a pretty penny developing these cars then they make sure they make as much of them as possible. This usually results in the motor being loaded to the roofline with the very latest techno-gadgets and safety features. They will be bursting with touch screen technology and the appalling named ‘infotainment centres’. Whatever happened to radios? Now it seems it is possible to connect with the entire world and probably NASA as well. Houston, we have a puncture.

No news yet on what advances the car makers are planning to stop children destroying the back seats of cars or of special cloaking devices which makes the cars invisible to traffic wardens. These are the answers that motorists want yet they remain a distant dream. And they call it progress.

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Age Shall Not Wither Our Older Cars.

Older cars are enjoying the strongest demand in the second-hand market as used car dealers hunt for vehicles that will compete best against cheap new car deals. Research has revealed that the impact on the used car demand pattern from low finance rates and discounts to encourage new car registrations has had a marked effect on the used car trade.

Overall trade values across the market are notably stable and – in some cases – rose during the second half of August thanks to restricted volume coupled with on-going solid retail demand. Surprisingly, the thirteen registration plate has had no effect on new car registrations and demand has remained strong in the used car market, although there are now signs emerging of some downward pressure on late plate values.
OLD21 Age Shall Not Wither Our Older Cars.
It seems that, for dealers, the most highly prized cars for retail are older cars in tip-top condition, Particularly in the 3 – 4 years old bracket, which look best value in comparison with newer cars. Here, some trade prices actually increased in the latter part of August as used car specialists worked ever harder to meet demand. The result of this is that one year old car values have depreciated slightly more than their older counterparts. This trend was anticipated by the industry and it is only really now that real evidence of values for late plate cars being more heavily affected than the rest of the age ranges has been seen.

September, coming as it does with the new 63 registration and the boost in sales of new cars, is seen as a pivotal month but it seems that trade values will change little in the short term. Factors that come into play are the likely influx of dealer part exchanges, the attractiveness of new car offers from manufacturers, and the determination of franchised dealers to hit their new targets.

The impact of more stock in the market from trade-ins is unlikely to have any major impact until towards the end of September. New car offers will be strong but may improve throughout the month as some manufacturers chase market share. Overall it looks like the both the new and used car market will remain fairly buoyant in the face of our economic gloom. Maybe things are looking up after all.

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Goodbye Sealant Hello Spare Wheel

In an enterprising development a well known organisation has come up with a novel idea for dealing with punctured or damaged wheels and tyres caused by potholes and other road menaces. They are calling it a spare wheel.

Yet it is not a humorous matter. For quite a while now manufacturers have taken to leaving the spare out and replacing it with a can of sealant. This is to enable them to either (or a combination of) save on manufacturing costs, make more room in the car and sell it as a space improvement or reduce the overall size of the vehicle; for example, city cars.

A tin of sealant is fine as a ‘get-you-home’ for, say a slow puncture but – as is more likely – it cannot fix a blow-out or sidewall damage. If this happens the driver is stuck and so, inevitably, is his family of young children. Not good. Certainly, cars are much more reliable these days and wheels and tyres are stronger and better made but it still happens and usually at the worst time.

The organisation – and they will no doubt soon be promoting the service – plan to offer an almost universal spare wheel (similar to the one pictured) when their service is called out. This takes the form of a seventeen inch wheel with adjustable mountings which should allow it to be fitted to any car that uses five studs on the hub. Effectively it is like the more standard space-saver wheel fitted to some cars already and will work with all but the largest and smallest cars.

The wheel is strictly a temporary measure and a speed limit applies but for the stranded motorist it will be heaven-sent as it avoids the need for a tow and additional time lost on a long wait. Sufferers will need to cough up a two hundred pound deposit on their plastic but this will be refunded once the stricken driver goes to a tyre depot to effective the repair on the original wheel. That’s a fair deal for the organisations’ members.

This is an issue that has been angering motorists for some time. Amazingly, up until recently, it was not incumbent on dealers to even tell customers there was no spare wheel. They got to find out the hard way. Clearly it behoves the new car buyer to establish this small but important fact before signing on the line that a vehicle is so equipped or at least is fitted with a space-saver, which are fine. Buying a car is supposed to be a pleasure and it is little things like this that spoil the party.

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The Advantages Of Potholes

That’s got you thinking, hasn’t it? What, you might well be asking, is there anything good in any way about potholes? Well, some very clever people have realised that, in a similar way that energy can be reclaimed from vehicle braking, it is possible to recover energy generated when a car goes over any sort of bump.

In a purely non-scientific assumption, it seems reasonable to assume that any action generates energy. In this case apparently, it is possible to convert the energy developed in the suspension dampers into electricity as we know it, which is then fed to the car’s system to help the power drain caused by headlight use and air conditioning systems. We know this sort of thing works.

As you can imagine, should any vehicle manufacturer decide to bring something of this ilk to their future vehicle production then UK drivers would benefit more than most as British roads are increasingly not unlike abandoned goats tracks in Nepal.

It has been estimated that last year the nation’s highways had no fewer than 2.2 million potholes. That’s quite a lot. In fact it is alleged that we have managed to achieve the disgraceful number of six per mile of road on average. Did you know that Honda built an especially rutted test track in Japan to better enable them to test the cars heading for our shores?

Not only would this new regeneration system work with potholes, it would be equally successful with speed humps. This idea is being seriously engineered by an American/German partnership and in testing it does actually work. This is the only single occasion when it is possible to say that bad roads are good. Even on those smooth freshly surfaced EU funded heavenly highways of the Continental mainland even very small ripples would have a regenerative effect. So it’s all good news then.

Or is it? Apparently, UK motorists stump up around a million quid a day to repair wheels, axles and suspension damaged by potholes. Everybody knows how notoriously hard it is to get money out of those responsible for our roads so it’s the good old insurers who are often having to foot the bill with the inevitable subsequent rise in premiums. This is without even thinking about the risk to health caused by accident potential. A car would have to do some really serious energy regeneration to recover those costs for the blighted drivers of Britain.

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Know Where You Stand With Car Costs

Car manufacturers are always coming up with new and better ways to attract customers to their brand. Special offers, obviously, and cut price accessories are pretty much the norm these day so more inventive ideas are coming to the fore.

Auto companies have realised that the average driver is struggling to keep car costs under control. Fixed price routine servicing is one more recent phenomenon. Now, and expect to see it spread like a bushfire, SEAT have stolen a march on the other brands with an online tyre ordering service designed to make the process as simple as possible.

The company say it is a quick and easy service with a wide variety of rubber on offer. The work will be done on their premises and the company are quoted as saying that tyres will cost from forty pounds per unit and that the final cost will be inclusive of fitting, balancing and disposal of the old tyres.

Browsers on the main SEAT website will have the use of an online web tool. This will make recommendations based on the car and the other usual parameters and in a regularly updated database will score those recommendations on the basis of price, fuel economy, wet grip, stopping distance and noise. Buyers can refine the choice until the right tyre stands out and can be ordered. The buyer can then turn up at their dealer at the appointed time knowing in total how much it is going to cost.seatyre1 Know Where You Stand With Car Costs

Now, sceptical readers will be pointing out under their breath that buying anything from main dealer is normally the most expensive way of doing it. This of course is often the case but think of the alternative. There will be the usual tiresome trawl around the independent tyre market, scratching around for savings. Once this is achieved it may well be that the savings are not as big as first thought, possibly because of the sundry extras that seem to be added on at the end.

Buying from your dealer gives you control. You know where, when and how much and who from and all from one visit to a website. That has just got to be worth money and, of course, you know who to go back to if not satisfied. A dealer will want your return business.

SEAT already offer their ‘It’s Fixed!’ pricing policy on servicing. How convenient would it be for your tyres to be changed at the regular service interval if ordered at the same time as booking? A one-stop shop. Now that is convenient. Expect other manufacturers to follow suit in short order.

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